Polenta Fries with Pesto

Polenta can be notoriously bland if you don’t get some oomph into the mixture with well-flavoured stock and lots of Parmesan. These “fries” are served with a beautifully fresh pesto to make a very more-ish snack.

Mortar & Pestle


500ml/2 cups good-quality stock

¾ cup/125g fine quick-cook polenta

2 tablespoons/30g butter

⅔ cup/50g finely grated Parmesan cheese

Sunflower oil, for frying


2 large handfuls of fresh basil leaves

2 garlic cloves

½ cup/120 ml extra virgin olive oil

Zest of 1 lemon and freshly squeezed juice of ½

⅔ cup/50 g finely grated Parmesan cheese

Sea salt flakes

Serves 6


Bring the stock to a boil in a saucepan, turn the heat down, and slowly add the polenta, stirring all the time. Stir until the polenta is thick and smooth and comes away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and Parmesan. Spread the polenta onto a lightly oiled baking sheet to a depth of about ½ inch/1 cm. Leave to set and when completely cold, cut into rectangular “fries” using a sharp knife.

To make the pesto, pound the basil, garlic, and oil together using a mortar and pestle to make a paste. Add the lemon zest, juice, and Parmesan. Mix well and season with sea salt. Tip into a serving bowl.

Pour the sunflower oil into a deep saucepan and heat to 375°F/190°C. Fry the polenta until golden and crisp. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately, with the bowl of pesto for dipping.


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